Trace your Dutch roots

Familieberichten

Birth and death listing in newspaper A 1920 newspaper listing of births and deaths from the civil register.

Introduction

Since the early 19th century, people in The Netherlands have printed announcements of important events like marriage or death, in newspapers or on cards. At first, it was only the better situated families who did it, but nowadays, almost everyone will send printed cards or publish newspaper advertisements on births, marriages, and deaths, and occasionally engagements, anniversaries, jubilees, and other events.

Some local newspapers also used to have a daily list of births and deaths. Their data often came directly from the civil register.

These announcements are called familieberichten (family messages) or familie-annonces (family announcements).

Births

Most people send cards after the births of their children. Newspaper ads are less common, and when they do exist, they usually look like small classified ads. These cards usually have the names of the newborn, the parents and the siblings, and the address of the family. Sometimes there is also a hint about the times visitors are welcome.

A 1913 wedding announcement A 1913 wedding announcement

Weddings and engagements

Wedding cards are used to announce the marriage, and to invite people to the wedding. Cards will have the names and current addresses of the future bride and groom, and the date, time and location of the civil wedding, church wedding and reception (note that since 1811, a church wedding can only take place after the civil wedding).

Engagement announcement Engagement announcement

Newspaper ads may look like the cards or they can look like a classified ad, but most people don't place an ad at all.

Engagement cards are less common. These are usually sent after engagements to announce the event, but occasionally they are sent in advance and contain an invitation to a reception or other celebration. Newspaper ads are rare and usually look like classified ads.

Deaths and funerals

Death notice in newspaper A 1918 newspaper ad announcing the death of Barend van Kampen

Death notices are the most common familieberichten. When someone dies, the bereaved will send a printed card to relatives and friends announcing the death of their loved one, and inviting people to come to the funeral. Often, they will also print a newspaper advertisement in the local newspaper, or in the newspaper the deceased used to read, with the same text. These death notices will contain the name and age of the deceased, the death date, the last place of residence, names and residences of the spouse and children and sometimes grandchildren, date and place of the funeral (or cremation), and a contact address. Many cards, especially from protestant families, will contain a bible quote, or, more recently, a short poem.

Death notice in newspaper The same death notice (of Barend van Kampen), but now on a printed card

Many families (especially protestants) send a thank you note to those who have attended the funeral, or otherwise expressed their sympathy. These are sent a few weeks after the funeral. The cards are similar in style and layout to the death notices, but they will only have the name of the surviving partner, or of one of the children, who will express his/her thanks on behalf of the family.

Catholic families usually hand out bidprentjes (mortuary cards), small cards with often a few biographical details and sometimes a picture of the deceased, a devotional text, and a request to pray for the soul of the deceased.

List of students passing exams A newspaper ad by teacher A. Meeth, listing students passing an exam (1922).

Other events

Occasionally, other events like jubilees or anniversaries are announced in a newspaper or periodical. For a wedding anniverary, for example, the children may place an ad announcing the event in the local newspaper, or a company may list people who have been employed 10 or 25 years in their periodical. After the annual school exams, local newspapers often list the names of those who have passed. Commercial adult education institutions advertise students who passed exams. Magazines and newspapers sometimes have features on special anniversaries, like a 100th birthday, or a 60 year wedding anniversary.

Familieberichten: Where do I find them?

The best place to find them is in family archives. Many families have collected the birth, marriage or death cards of their nearest relatives. Your cousins may have a box of these cards somewhere, or maybe there are a few stuck inside photo albums or scrapbooks you or your relatives still have.

There are two major collections of familieberichten in The Netherlands: The collections of the Dutch Genealogical Society (NGV), only accessible for members, and only at their headquarters in Naarden (the collection bidprentjes is partly indexed online, but also only for members), and of the Central Bureau of Genealogy (CBG), available in their study room in The Hague, and partly online (for a small fee).

Newspaper collections can be consulted in the Royal Dutch Library, libraries and archives. Some newspapers are available online, e.g. on the newspaper website of the Royal Dutch Library.

Recent familieberichten can sometimes be found on the websites of newspapers, but there are also a few online collections, usually maintained by volunteers: De Annonce Revue and Familieberichten on-line, for example. Many newspaper familieberichten are posted to discussion groups like the Ancestry Message Boards, or soc.genealogy.benelux.

Do you have familieberichten from your Dutch ancestors? Let me know - sign the guestbook or leave a message on the feedback page.